Helping Your Kindergartener Make Friends

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Kindergarten is a huge step for children, full of excitement and, for many, anxiety. Kids want to make friends right away, and as a parent, you'd hate to hear that your child is having trouble or being left out. Know that kindergarteners having trouble making friends is extremely common. You just need to help your kid along! Learn what to do to strike the delicate balance between doing everything for your child and letting her learn to do it for herself.

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By Lily Jones

When your child is having trouble making friends, you need to walk a thin line between supporting your child and taking too much control. You want to be hands-on, but you should also provide the tools for your kid to make friends on her own. Learn how to help your kindergartener develop immediate friendships and social skills that will be invaluable in the future!

Role-Play

Pretend to be a child playing a game. Have your child come to you and ask, "Excuse me, can I play with you?" Then, take it one step further: Have your child ask, “What can I do in this game?" Sometimes children give an automatic "yes" to others who ask to play without providing guidance about how to play. This second question is key and will ensure that your child isn’t left behind.

Refer to Classmates as ‘Friends’

Small children take words very seriously. Instead of saying, "Which child do you sit next to?" ask, "Which friend do you sit next to?" This may seem awkward at first, but in time your child will pick up on the underlying message that all her classmates are potential friends.

Find After-School Activities

For some children, a small, structured setting is the perfect environment for friendships to bloom. If you have a budding artist on your hands, sign her up for a pottery or painting class. If you have a sporty kid, find a league or class to join. Ask other parents of kindergarteners if their children would like to participate as well.

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Set up Playdates

With 20 or more children around at all times, school can be overwhelming. Some children tend to withdraw from groups but play wonderfully one-on-one. Ask your child which classmates might be potential friends, and arrange playdates with them. Once children gain experience with each other in an intimate setting, their friendship will transfer more easily to a school setting.

Learn Classmates’ Names

Ask the school or teacher for a class roster, if you don’t already have one, and quiz your child on her classmates’ names. For kindergarteners, knowing other kids’ names can make it much easier to initiate conversation. If your child tells you about a friend at school, make sure she doesn’t forget the new friend’s name.

Be Social Outside of School

Establish that being social isn’t just done at school, where kids may feel a certain level of pressure. The more your family socializes, little ones included, the more comfortable your child will be around people in general. Invite neighbors over. Go to the park. Make casual chat in public. Kids imitate those around them, and that includes you!

Talk to Your Child's Teacher

Find a time to meet with your child's teacher one-on-one to discuss your concerns. At the beginning of the school year, teachers are just beginning to get to know their students. Gently mentioning your concerns may help the teacher make an extra effort to encourage friendships by pairing buddies up to work together or facilitating a cooperative game at recess.

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Be Supportive … and Patient

Make sure your child knows you're always there to help, but don't force her to talk, and don't make a big deal out of it. Casually check in to assess how her relationships are developing. Building friendships may take a while, but hopefully they will last a lifetime!

Does your kid have a case of the kindergarten jitters? Learn how to address the anxiety that often comes with this big step!

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